Aspiring archaeologists can learn the ropes at Museum of American History at Deptford

Student Archaeology Classes return on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in July

Pictured are artifacts excavated at the Andaloro Farm by young student archaeologists in past museum classes. (Courtesy Jeffrey and Barbara Norcross.)

If you’ve got a young Indiana Jones at home, he or she may want to spend some time at the Museum of American History at Deptford this summer.

As is tradition, the museum will bring back its Student Archaeology Classes during July. The program gives students ages 7 to 14 a chance to learn about this social science and also have an opportunity to experience what an archaeologist does in the field.

“It’s straight up archaeology,” museum curator Jeffrey Norcross said. “Sometimes you don’t find hardly anything, and sometimes you find really cool stuff. The kids get a kick out of it.”

Norcross has long been fascinated with archaeology, declaring as an 8-year-old his intention to become an archaeologist and open a museum. Inspired by archaeologists he met growing up, Norcross wanted a chance to pass this passion onto a new generation.

“I was very fortunate as a child, being exposed to archaeology and paleontology. I wanted to continue that trend,” Norcross said.

He started the museum’s archaeology classes when it first opened in 1996 in Berlin, and they have continued throughout the museum’s move to Glassboro and, most recently, to Deptford.

During the classes, after learning about what an archaeologist does, students then take to the farmstead surrounding the museum (“Deptford owns 32 acres,” Norcross said, “and we use a small portion of that to excavate.”) to try their hands in the field. College interns assist during the excavations, and students use appropriate tools and complete paperwork for their finds. In the past, they have found everything from a small saucer circa 1929 to a harness buckle from a stable to a glass bottle stopper and more. Some of the artifacts are on display at the museum.

“It’s all kinds of cool stuff,” Norcross said. “The kids enjoy it.”

They enjoy it so much that many return to the class year after year. This year’s classes are from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in July (except for July 4), and kids can sign up for a one-day class for $20, a two-day class for $30 or a three-day class for $35.

Offering community programming at the museum – which is run by a nonprofit foundation – is important to Norcross and his wife, Barbara.

“We enjoy Deptford an awful lot, and we want to be part of the Deptford community,” Norcross said. “We want to offer these types of programs to the kids.”

The Norcrosses are currently working with the Deptford School District to share some of its approximately 40,000 artifacts that will soon be coming out of storage. Having been a young archaeologist himself, Norcross is happy to share his passion with local youth.

“Hopefully some of them will take it up in the future,” he said.

The museum, located at 138 Andaloro Way, Deptford, is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Admission to tour the museum is $4 for adults and $3 for children. Group rates are available. For more information or to sign up for archaeology classes, call (856) 812-1121 or email sjmuseum@aol.com. Learn more about the museum online at www.southjerseymuseum.org.